Thousands of angry youths took to the streets of Uyo, the Akwa Ibom State capital on Monday to protest rising unemployment said to be the highest in the Niger Delta region of the country.
The youths said to have been mobilized from other parts of the region poured in to the streets of Uyo clad in white attire and some in all black outfits in the early morning. Taking residents by surprise, they marched to the Governor’s Office along Barracks Road.
In addition to demanding that the state government should create employment opportunities, they also demanded for a share of the 13 percent oil derivation allocation to state.
Apparently overwhelmed by the huge number of the youths, the police launched several canisters of tear-gas, leading to a stampede with scores injured in the melee.
In apparent anticipation of reprisal by the angry youths under the aegis of the Ibom Youths Congress (IYC), led by their militant leaders, the Police called for a re-enforcement of a Joint Task Force (JTF), comprising Soldiers, Nigeria Security Civil Defense Corps (NSCDC) and the Police personally led by the Commissioner of Police (CP), Olatoye Durosinmi.
It was learnt that it took the JTF team tough time to dislodge the group from the Barracks Road end of the Government House to the Ibom Plaza roundabout, where they stated their grievances.
Speaking to journalists, one of the leaders, Victor Bassey James, secretary of the Niger Delta Movement (NDM), said: “We have suffered a lot; our youths have not been empowered. That is why we’ve come en-masse to make sure that the Governor look into our matter.
“We are asking for five percent out of the 13 percent oil derivation. And they have said they would call us for dialogue. But failure to do that we will take another step,” he stressed
While suing for peace, CP Durosinmi; the Commander of the 2 Brigade of the Nigeria Army, his NSCDC counterpart and the Commissioner in-charge of Internal Security in the state, and other concerned authorities appealed for calm, urging them to retire home, assuring that Governor Umo Eno, would address their grievances at the appropriate time.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Odiko MacDon, explained that the teargas incident was borne out of the need to stop hoodlums trying to invade the Government House from taking the laws into their own hands.
He said: “Well, the truth of the matter is that they were addressed by the Commissioner of Police; the Commander 2 Brigade, and other sister agencies on the need to be peaceful.
“They were also addressed by the Commissioner for Internal Security, but they insisted that they have to access the Government House. That is why a commensurate force was used to disperse them. They have dispersed peacefully so there’s no need for anybody to worry.”
The state government has yet to issue any statement on the incident but it was gathered that the government officials were holding meetings on how to meet the demands of the youths.
Last year, the state announced vacancies for recruitment into the civil service but it was alleged that some applicants were secretly selected based on recommendations by politicians for interview, and those with connections were employed.
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